Monday, 26 November 2012

Be in the world differently

This youtube clip was posted around Facebook recently. It is certainly encouraging and inspirational...until you get to the end and find out that its an ad for Coke. Then you are left feeling just a little bit manipulated.

When the video did the rounds the last bit was edited out so that people didn't know it was an ad, until people starting posting the real source.

Despite the video being an ad it still touches something deep within us. It reminds us that (even if in this video it is staged) no matter how bad we think the world is small acts of kindness, grace, joy can make a difference. If this wasn't the case the ad would fail to move us.

While the cameras are watching us to catch us doing evil, they also catch us doing good, being loving, kind and free.

For me this video reminds me that as Christians we are meant to be caught "red handed" living in the world in a different way. The youtube clip gives us a starting point for helping students think about what a life lived in the Kingdom of God might look like.

I wonder...if we could watch all the security camera footage of ourselves ever captured, what would it show?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Youth Mental Health First Aid

All of us who work with young people, especially teens and young adults, will probably find ourselves encountering someone with a mental health disorder, illness or problem sooner or later.  How should we respond?

Recently, I undertook a two-day course called "Youth Mental Health First Aid."  I imagine there are a few of these kinds of courses around, so this is not just a straight ad for a particular provider, but it certainly gave me fresh insights into how to deal with troubled young people (and the price seemed very reasonable).

In the same way as a conventional First Aid course, we were given a manual to study over the two days and then take home.  While I can't share the entire contents here, it strikes me as a very useful book to have on the shelf, with stacks of sound clinical advice, numerous resource links and, featured throughout, the artworks of young people themselves illustrating their own illnesses or problems, with their comments on what they were thinking at the time they created their artwork.  These thought-provoking pieces lend authentic and colourful youth voices to what could otherwise be a rather 'black and white' text.

Over two days, we discussed developing mental health problems (depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, substance misuse) and mental health crisis situations (suicidal thoughts and behaviours, non-suicidal self-injury (sometimes called self-harm), panic attacks, traumatic events, acute effects of drug or alcohol use, and severe psychotic states).  Some of these involved rather confronting elements, but noone walked out.
Just as those of us who have undergone other First Aid courses are taught to remember something like "DR ABC", so we were taught "ALGEE" which stands for:

1. Approach the young person, assess and assist with any crisis
2. Listen non-judgementally
3. Give support and information
4. Encourage appropriate professional help
5. Encourage other supports [i.e. self-help and others who can help]

The resource sections were great, but will need to be updated regularly. Some of the resources aimed at young people themselves listed under 'Substance misuse in young people' included: (compare drinking habits with those in the same age group) (click on 'enter the youth site') (interactive activities about tobacco use)

And also: (to help parents counter teen alcohol misuse)

I came away feeling much better informed about the scope of youth mental health issues, and also feeling that I now had some tools at my disposal for the next time these kinds of issues emerge.  The YMHFA courses are held regularly around Australia, so feel free to seek them out for some PD time well spent.

Creating Prayer Spaces in Schools is a great site if you want to explore ways to engage students in prayer throughout the school.

While the site is based around the idea of creating a specific prayer space  there are lots of different and creative prayer activities that could be used in a classroom, outside or in a chapel with little requirement to create a separate space. offers a fairly comprehensive approach to setting up a prayer space including planning tools and case studies. Their approach considers both permanent and temporary arrangements.

I love the idea of creating a one day outside prayer space for a special occasion or season as a way of engaging a wider segment of the school than might normally turn up to a prayer meeting at lunch. 

There are all sorts of resources on the site including lesson plans and a top ten prayer activities page.